Michele Boyet: SPJ needs new skill set in digital media; marketing and branding

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Michele Boyet answers questions on why she is running for SPJ At-Large director.

Why did you decide to run for the At-Large director position of the Society of Professional Journalists national board this year?

A successful board needs a group of qualified people with an array of skills — and our board is lacking when it comes to digital media. You might say I’m no longer a traditional journalist, and that’s fine. But the board needs someone with my skill set: a writer and communicator who deeply understands social media, branding, website UX and email marketing. We’re an organization who represents talented journalists who communicate all day, yet we can do so much more to communicate to our members and the public.

I’ve been a part of SPJ on the local level for the past eight years, proudly serving on the SPJ Florida board in every role from director to president. We’ve won Chapter of the Year three times since 2010 and launched successful events that have been recreated around the country. I’ve volunteered on the Day of Giving, Resolutions and Communications national committees, and I’m ready to formally take my experience to the national level.

Journalism is going through some substantial flexes. As an At-Large director what are the four areas of concern you feel journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists need to address if you become top leadership at SPJ?

The main four areas I’d like to focus on are communications (internal and external), membership, news literacy and continuing the fight for press freedom.

Michele Boyet photo 2As co-chair of SPJ Communications Committee, I had the honor of joining the national board in San Diego last January. Together, we took a critical eye to the organization’s five-year plan and SPJ’s role in today’s climate. We redefined our goals, outlining next steps to continue the fight for press freedom, mobilize journalists to educate the public, ensure SPJ dedicates itself to the inclusion of all who practice and support ethical journalism, and lastly, to provide the support and services that make membership essential. This experience prompted me to run for the board. Your vote will help ensure we finish what we started.

SPJ is a national (and international) membership organization. Could you explain your philosophy on how to better serve our individual members?

To better serve our members we need to better serve our local chapters. With the plan to shrink the size of our board, I am hopeful this will allow us to shift our focus from the community model to the chapter model. When we give local chapters the support, tools and resources they need to grow, SPJ grows.

I’ve also always believed programming is the best benefit of membership—hosting an innovative, educational and interactive event is the best way for a local chapter to grow its membership.

What is your opinion for the lessening of SPJ national board numbers?

I strongly support the Governance Task Force’s recommendation to assemble a smaller board that will be better suited to tackle issues quicker and take SPJ to the next level. I strongly believe in the old “too many cooks in the kitchen” adage. Getting 23 people on the same page, or even on the same conference call, is tough and often unproductive. A board of nine will be able to meet more often, focus on more issues, be much more efficient and essentially just get more done. With less people to elect, we can also focus on quality over quantity, ensuring only the best serve on the board.

According to our current U.S. president, journalists are the “enemy of the state” and polls ranking the “trust factor” is low with the American people. How can SPJ communicate to not only our members the value of membership but to continue to fight for the First Amendment?

I’m very impressed and proud of the ‘Press the Prez’ initiatives Lynn Walsh has spearheaded this year. The messaging and statements we have at https://www.spj.org/fight are powerful and we need to continue to spread the message that we’ve had enough and these attacks on journalism are attacks on democracy.

Speaking of powerful, a few weeks ago nearly 200 community newspapers in Minnesota printed blank front pages—some completely blank and others with a single line such as “Without YOU there is no newspaper” or “Imagine a day without local news.” This was much more than a statement and I hope this is the start of an incredible movement.

Why did you decide to work in journalism? And continue to work in journalism?

Michele Boyet photo 3I knew in middle school that I wanted to be a writer. Everyone has a story and I was always eager to hear it and learn from it. Once I found I could then share these stories in the school newspaper or yearbook, I never looked back. In college, I learned far more from being a part of and leading our student newspaper than I ever did in a class. Journalism offers the opportunity to reach so many people and the potential to touch—and possibly even change-—someone’s life.

If you sat in a room with high schoolers considering going into news journalism, how would you convince them to join the news industry?

It’s all about following your passion. Journalism offers the ability to touch people’s lives, the chance to share someone’s story and to ultimately, the opportunity to make change. It’s tough, it’s often exhausting but it’s always powerful and forever rewarding. If you can write and you dream about changing the world, journalism is for you.

More and more large media companies are “buying out” smaller syndicated or individual news organizations? Do you see this as an issue for partisan news? Or is this the survival of journalism to have such large corporations manage the news?

At the end of the day, it’s business. Do I like it, no. Does it suck, sure does. But this isn’t something specific to journalism organizations; it’s the world we live in and its just economics. Like you said, it’s also survival. Just as we need to fight to keep small, local business alive around the country, we need to educate the public about the importance of local news, coverage of a community and what happens when it’s gone.

How does an organization like SPJ fight “faux or fake” news?

When it comes to the Fake News debacle, our role is to educate. We need to educate the public on what real, powerful and important journalism is, what it means and what it does. We need to educate the public on what isn’t “real” news and why it’s faux, how to spot it and what to do about it.

If you have any questions, contact Michele Boyet @mboyet

Watch for instructions for online voting at the SPJ Excellence In Journalism Convention that will take place next week.